Author Archives: Jack Meredith

Lies, condescension, repeat – the new mantra of the Conservative Party

In 2016, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove claimed that Brexit would allow us to cut VAT on energy bills.

On Wednesday 18th May, the Tories voted against the Liberal Democrat motion to cut VAT on energy bills, highlighting yet again, the lies that Brexit was built upon. The claim by Johnson and Gove that Brexit would allow us to cut VAT on energy bills implies that being an EU member didn’t allow us to do so previously; despite Belgium cutting VAT on electricity bills while being a member of the EU. Another Brexit lie propagated at the time of the referendum was the “removal of red tape”, later proven to be false by the rising administration costs facing British businesses.

This has highlighted how out of touch the Tories are with the British people.

Despite pensioners feeling abandoned by the government, Sir Ed Davey making clear that tax hikes are the last thing Londoners need and Sir Keir Starmer stating that Johnson is “choosing to let people struggle”, the advice from Home Office minister Rachel Maclean for citizens dealing with the cost of living crisis is… get a better job.

Oh…

When turning the attention to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, her advice is… to get a “high-paid job”.

Oh…

With so many having to choose between heating and eating, having to skip meals and some even having to leave their heating off entirely, the advice from the government is simply to “get a better job”. This echoes the now infamous, heartless speech from former Conservative Employment Minister Norman Tebbit, who told the Conservative Party 1981 Conference that when his father was faced with unemployment in the 30s, “he got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it”.

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Queen’s Speech: Conversion therapy “ban” does not go far enough

This Morning, Charles, Prince of Wales delivered the Queen’s Speech.

Among the many measures to be introduced by the Conservative government is a bill  to ban conversion therapy, referring to the immoral pseudoscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexuality from homosexuality or bisexuality to heterosexuality, or trying to change a person’s gender identity from transgender or non-binary to cisgender.

There is one main issue with this pledge, however; the government has already failed to ban gender conversion therapy, and fully ban gay and bisexual conversion therapy.

The Conservatives have faced controversy on this issue previously, reneging on their promise to ban LGBT+ conversion therapy. Resulting in pushback across the political spectrum, including members of their party, the government u-turned and promised to ban gay conversion therapy – making a point of NOT banning gender conversion therapy.

Despite further backlash to include trans and non-binary people within their legislated ban, once again from members of their party – including their LGBT+ and One Nation Conservative wings – this government has decided to continue their attack upon the trans and non-binary communities by refusing to do so, with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab defending the decision: “we should be able to discuss these sensitive issues with mutual tolerance”.

The issue with Raab’s statement is that “mutual tolerance” is missing from the government’s legislation. There is nothing mutual or tolerant about conversion therapy. It is the outright denial of identity as if a trans person or non-binary person is confused and must be forcibly changed to conform with society, rather than allowing them to live their lives as individuals.

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Boris Johnson – you’re fired

Boris Johnson broke the law.

He partied while repeatedly telling us the importance of “staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives”. I have no issues with the laws of the time, as they were necessary to protect the immuno-compromised. What I have an issue with, however, is how we were lied to by our Prime Minister.

He had the gall to stand in parliament and deliver an “unreserved apology”, encouraging us to let the government “get on with the job”. Correct me if I’m wrong, the person giving the apology doesn’t decide when to move on, but rather the recipient of the apology does. I’m sure I speak for the majority when I say, we are not ready to move on.

Our nation’s public office holders are expected to meet the 7 standards of the Nolan Principles:

  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Honesty
  • Leadership
  • Openness
  • Accountability

I honestly cannot give an example of how Boris Johnson has met a single standard.

He is the first sitting Prime Minister to break the law. He has knowingly misled parliament regarding his attendance of the aforementioned Downing Street parties. He frequently uses the Russian Invasion of Ukraine to deflect taking responsibility for his unlawful actions. When the country needed strong leadership, he fled into hiding. He was happy for civil servants to take the fall for his unlawful actions. His ties to the Kremlin, whether it be through his friendship with Baron Lebedev of Siberia or his attendance at Lebedev’s party in Italy, make him a security threat.

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The importance of acknowledging mental health

In November 2020, I had a breakdown.

I was a postgraduate student when the news broke that Covid-19 was worse than we thought, resulting in all classes going online. We all thought it would last a few weeks, have a few awkward Zoom interactions, then it would all be over and remembered as a strange but interesting time. Fast forward 2 years, and it’s only now the class of 2020 is finally having its graduation ceremony. Exams had finished come June 2020, which meant from July to September, all postgraduate students were now focusing on dissertations. I was looking forward to it, as I had aspirations to go further with my education and pursue a PhD, with the master’s dissertation being my opportunity to build the foundations of my future thesis.

In our first meeting, my supervisor informed me that I had spent too long researching. Stress increased, along with anxiety. As time went on, my chest was feeling heavier, I was having headaches and I was snapping at my family and friends whenever they asked about the dissertation. I was feeling terrible but told myself it was fine, “all part of uni”. I eventually wrote up my research, sent it off and awaited my next meeting.

“Is this just your plan?”. I was so embarrassed, I wish I said: “No, this is just over a month’s work that I worked hard on, and I’d appreciate it if you recognised that”. But instead, I nodded my head and agreed that my work wasn’t good enough. I let slip my mental health had been getting bad; “It’s natural to feel like that with the dissertation, get your head down and do your best”. The meeting ended, and I was feeling more lost than ever. I had under a month to restructure my dissertation, write it up, analyse, send it off and pray I get a pass. I’d started comfort-eating a lot, I wasn’t sleeping and I was crying most days – somehow still convincing myself this was all fine.

What followed was more meetings and more bad news, which all culminated in an extension on my dissertation from the university. I remember describing how I was feeling to my mum at this point: “There are two sides fighting in my head, and both are telling me I’m doing terrible”. She was rightly concerned, as was the rest of my family; just not me, who was still convinced I could power through. In the last meeting, I had with my supervisor, I received the worst possible feedback; “you’ll most likely fail”. Just typing that out makes me stop and relive the experience of crying on camera, while my supervisor tried desperately to glean something positive from my work.

And then, it happened. I had my breakdown.

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We must protect Channel Four

On 2nd November 1982, at 4:40 pm, Scottish television presenter Paul Coia made an announcement that would change British television forever; “Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be able to say to you: Welcome to Channel Four”.

While the plans for a fourth independent television channel were originally devised in 1977, under the Callaghan Administration, it wouldn’t be until 1982 under Margaret Thatcher that these plans were put into motion, bringing us Channel Four and the Welsh equivalent, S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru/Channel Four Wales). Since its inception, we’ve seen channels branch off from Channel Four, including but not limited to 4Music, E4, More4, Film4, and a streaming platform in the form of All4. As of late, there’s been a lot of talk from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport regarding selling Channel Four, justifying it with the claim that doing so would make it “more competitive”, in comparison to competitors such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. This is despite the fact that Channel Four is, first and foremost, a broadcaster and not a streaming platform.

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LGBT+ Allies need to step up

On March 31 2022, Boris Johnson announced he was U-turning on the government’s pledge to ban conversion “therapy”; a form of abuse that seeks to undermine someone’s gender and/or sexual identity, and gaslight them into believing how they view themselves is wrong and must be “corrected”.

Due to backlash from politicians across the House; including a number of Tory MPs, and LGBT+ pressure groups Johnson acquiesced – to a point. He has promised to uphold the ban on gay and bisexual conversion therapy but has failed to do the same regarding trans conversion therapy. What has been made very clear is that the LGBT+ community is viewed as nothing more than a vehicle to gain votes for Boris Johnson. The way he is willing to make such rash, disgusting decisions that compromise the rights and safety of individuals serve to highlight that now, more than ever, LGBT+ allies need to rally around the community and bolster our support.

We cannot expect trans people to shoulder the burden of standing against societal, and now state-sanctioned oppression alone. If we want to see real change, we must create platforms that amplify trans voices. We need to contact MPs, MSPs, MSs, MLAs, Councillors, Mayors, anyone and everyone that is integral to our political system and encourage them to speak up against such prejudice. We must listen, not to respond, but to understand and learn from trans people, the negative experiences they face and what we can do to mitigate them. It is our moral responsibility to defend and uphold the individual freedoms of all people – a responsibility that our government has abandoned.

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Spring Statement 2022: perspective of an unpaid carer

Yesterday, 23rd March 2022, Rishi Sunak delivered his Spring Statement 2022. It included a 5p cut in fuel duty and a rise in the National Insurance threshold by £3,000. But what caught my eye, on a personal note, was the lack of support for unpaid carers.

I have been looking after my grandfather now for nearly 2 years, in that time receiving £270 a month for my work. Now, I don’t begrudge looking after my grandfather as I want to keep him alive and well for as long as possible; my parents, grandparents and I have always lived in the same house together since I was born, so it’s always felt like having a second set of parents for me.

But something that I can’t ignore is the way this government has consistently ignored unpaid carers. Sunak has so far delivered 3 budgets as Chancellor, with no help or support given to us. The gap between the government’s perception of reality, and reality itself, is widening week-on-week. Amid a cost of living crisis, they think £270 a month is enough to cover rising bills – that’s let not forget, have increased due to their own lack of economic intervention – and then go as far as to expect us to be grateful?

Caring for my grandfather is a privilege, as I know I’m playing an important role in maintaining his health and well-being. But caring comes at a cost; adding to my already fragile mental health through 24/7 worrying, sacrificing 2 years of my life to pick up where this government has failed. And on that very point, this government assumes we only care for loved ones 5 hours a day, as we’re paid for 35 hours a week.

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We must adopt a Jenkinsite approach to support trans people

Trans rights are human rights, trans men are men, trans women are women and nothing will ever change this.

It is becoming clear, however, that a minority of our citizens and even representatives in our parliament, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists – or “TERFs” – do not feel the same way, choosing to see trans people as threats, and choose to attack and undermine them simply for existing, which I cannot help but regard as foolish and wrong. Trans women are women and trans men are men; how can they be threats when all they’re doing is living their lives, no different from you and me?

TERFs refuse to acknowledge that trans people are who they say they are, and in doing so undermine the feminist movement – the cause they claim to defend – but in reality are adding to the oppression and discrimination faced under the patriarchy. It is a reminder of how far we’ve strayed from the “civilised society” – tolerance, openness, inclusivity, the strengthening of individual rights and the abolishment of illiberal laws that prohibit people from living their lives to the fullest extent – the idea that liberal icon Roy Jenkins championed as Home Secretary under then-Labour Party leader Harold Wilson. If it weren’t for him, Britain would not have decriminalised homosexuality, removed theatre censorship, legalised abortions, banned racial discrimination in work, to name but a few of Jenkins’ accomplishments.

But more importantly than what he achieved, is the ideology he brought to the role of Home Secretary: social libertarianism. While many will read that, and think of the likes of Friedrich Hayek, free markets were not the aim of Jenkins’ reforms. But instead, so long as a person brings no harm to themselves or others and follows the rule of law, then who are we to say their identity is invalid? TERFs disagree with this sentiment, actively limiting women’s rights and supporting the strengthening of the patriarchy through harsher policing and state intervention in the lives of individuals.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments
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